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Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Mon Nov 04, 2013 8:41 pm

I can't believe I haven't learned about this until seventeen days after the fact, but one of the great unsung rock and roll legends of the fifties, guitarist supreme Roland Janes, passed away in Memphis, last October 18th. He was 80 years old.

Janes' music career spread seven decades, but he will probably be remembered as the man whose fantastic guitar work graced dozens, probably hundreds, of recordings at Sun Records, among them the best of Jerry Lee Lewis' output for the label.

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2013/oct/18/memphis-recording-legend-roland-janes-80-has-died/

The Little Green Men, circa 1957.
(l-r) : Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Roland Janes (guitar), Pat O'Neill (bass), Jimmy Wilson (piano).

The Little Green Men.JPG


Jerry Lee Lewis, unidentified, Roland Janes, circa 1958.
Jerry Lee Lewis, unidentified, Roland Janes.jpg


(l-r) : Van Eaton, Janes, Lewis, Marvin Pepper, at Sun Studio, circa 1957.
At Sun.jpg
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Last edited by Mister Moon on Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:39 pm

Here's an excellent obituary written by Sun expert Colin Escott, featuring some great pics :

Janes-Roland-0827.jpg


Janes-Roland-at-Sonic-Studi.jpg


Janes-Roland-0826.jpg


Roland Janes 1933 – 2013
by Colin Escott


Sometimes, musicians would come into Phillips Recording in Memphis, aware that the engineer, Roland Janes, had been a big deal guitar player long ago. They’d hand him a guitar and say, “I wanna hear you play.” Roland would hand it back and say, “You’ve HEARD me play.” Just about everyone heard Roland Janes play. If not the solo on Whole Lotta Shakin’ orHigh School Confidential then the bridge on Raunchy or the deliriously over-the-top solos on Flying Saucer Rock and Roll. And don’t forget that he played on and produced Harold Dorman’s Mountain Of Love, and issued it on a label he co-owned. He also produced Travis Wammack’s Scratchy, Matt Lucas’s I’m Moving On, and Jerry Jaye’s My Girl Josephine—among the best records to come out of Memphis in the early to mid 1960s.

Sometime in the early ‘80s, I went to Phillips Recording on Madison Avenue in Memphis. I knew Roland had just started back there after twenty or more years, and that no one had ever interviewed him (Martin Hawkins and I had phoned his house in 1971 only to be told he had no interest in talking to us). So I walked into the little rec room across the hall from the studio. A bunch of guys were sitting around a table eating and smoking. I said, “Is Roland Janes here?”Someone with his back to me said, “No man, Roland’s gone for the day.” I realized later that was Roland Janes.

If he felt like talking—and later that week we began an intermittent thirty-year conversation—no one was a better source for Memphis music history or gnomic wisdom about life in general. Unlike the artists who refract everything through the prism of their ego, he was self-effacing to a fault. He also had the driest wit in Memphis. The last few Christmases, I received a card from him with a self-composed short story inside. One time, he asked how to get a work of fiction published. I told him he’d have to go on the road to promote it, and I don’t think the idea resurfaced after that. He lived at the same address for decades with the woman he’d married in 1959, and, as far as I’m aware, hadn’t left Memphis in years.

Roland Janes was born in Brookings, Arkansas on August 20, 1933, the second youngest in a family of seven. His father was a lumberman whose work kept the family on the move during the Depression. When Roland was ten, his parents divorced and his mother moved to St.Louis, eventually bringing the children with her. Roland’s first instrument was the mandolin, although he’d switched to guitar by the time he enlisted in the Marines in 1953. He’d moved to Memphis shortly before entering the service and returned there after his discharge in 1956. Going to school under the GI Bill, he worked briefly as a laundryman and even more briefly in a paint factory before turning to music.

Doc McQueen, a pianist who ran a home demo studio and led a band at the Hideaway Club, was looking for a guitarist, and Roland got the job. Through McQueen, Roland met steel guitarist Kenneth Herman who introduced him to Jack Clement. At that time, Clement and a local truckdriver, Slim Wallace, were on the point of launching Fernwood Records from Wallace’s garage. Their first artist was Billy Riley. Clement took the tapes to Sam Phillips at Sun for mastering. Phillips liked what he heard and Riley’s first efforts led to an engineering job at Sun for Clement, a contract for Riley, and a steady job working sessions for Riley’s group.

In December 1956, Riley and Phillips were looking for songs for Riley’s second single when Roland remembered some demos he’d heard by a local musician, Ray Scott. One of the songs, Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll, played off the then-current infatuation with extra-terrestrials. It became rockabilly in all its go-for-broke tutti-frutti looniness. There was so much to love about it starting with Roland’s spacey intro, his delirious solos and the sustained Twilight Zone piano chord at the end. As it hit the streets, Riley dressed his band in pool table green baize and went on tour in search of the hit that should have been his.

Don’t overlook the flip-side, I Want You Baby. Roland plays his two-string style. “Most guitarists were playing single string back then,” he said, “and we wanted something that wasn’t country but wasn’t blues. We said, ‘What can we do that’s different to set this apart?’”In their new role as session musicians, Roland and Riley’s underage drummer, J.M. Van Eaton, played on Jerry Lee Lewis’s demo session, and the chemistry was so instantaneous that they were conscripted to play on most of Jerry Lee’s sessions for the remainder of the decade. They provided a loose framework in which Lewis’s peculiar genius could shine. It was pretty clear to astute listeners that the same guitarist played on most of Jerry Lee’s early sessions, and the first clue to his identity came when Jerry shouted “Roland, boy!” on Hand Me Down My Walking Cane. A few years later, we found some of the original session contracts with his name and immediately realized that he’d written Put Me Down for Jerry’s first LP. It all started fitting together.

In 1957, Roland quit Riley to work on the road with Lewis. He and Jerry roomed together, and he insists that Jerry’s bass player/father-in-law, J.W. Brown, and his road drummer, Russ Smith, were the hellraisers. Falling with out with Jerry Lee after a few months, Roland worked a short spell with Bill Justis, then riding the crest of the wave that began and ended withRaunchy, before returning to work with Jerry Lee shortly before the ill-fated tour of England in May 1958. They worked together until 1959 when Roland returned to Riley’s group. By that point he had married and was beginning to question whether he wanted to spend the rest of his days working the road and making forty bucks or less on sessions that led to million-selling records. He and Riley decided to become moguls.

“When Sam [Phillips] put in the new studio on Madison Avenue,” said Roland, “Bill and I went to Sam and asked him to let us retain the old studio and record there with the product going to Sun, but we never actually resolved the question and just drifted into doing our own thing. Rita Records was a co-op deal. Bill and I played on everything, which naturally eliminated having to pay a couple of musicians, and we used our old buddies Martin Willis and J.M. Van Eaton. We came up with a partner, Ira Lyn Vaughan, who had a little money. He was an accountant, and we named the label after his daughter. Mr. Vaughn did all the paperwork, and Bill and I took care of production and getting records to distributors. Riley was a much better salesman than me, but I probably had a better business head.”

Rita Records was launched in September 1959. Roland Janes and Billy Riley released their own records together with singles by J.M. Van Eaton and Marty Willis. The first and only hit on the label came in 1960 with Harold Dorman’s Mountain Of Love. The record climbed the charts, eventually peaking at #21 on the Hot 100. The label folded soon after the follow up,Moved To Kansas City. Roland had to lay low for a while, and moved back to St. Louis. Back in Memphis, he launched Sonic Sound, on Madison Avenue. His ideas on production were based on what he had learned from Sam Phillips. “Sam taught me not to hold back. Just do it and have a good time doing it. Don’t get hung up on little minor mistakes. If it feels good, that will come through on the tape.”

Three hits came out of Sonic: Matt Lucas’s I’m Movin’ On, leased to Smash/Mercury, Travis Wammack’s Scratchy, released on Roland’s ARA and distributed through Atlantic, and Jerry Jaye’s delightfully retro My Girl Josephine on Hi (probably the last hit cut for less than twenty bucks). “Roland even gave me the keys to the studio so I could go and rehearse,” said Wammack. “He gave me a break and I couldn’t believe it because he was the top picker around.” “Travis was so good,” said Roland, “that he would become impatient with the other musicians. He would play his part and theirs too. Sometimes he’d sound like a lead guitar, rhythm guitar and horn section–all at the same time. I told him to slow down or I’d have to get out my guitar and cut him.”

Sonic operated during a transitional period in Memphis music. “We were coming out of the rockabilly thing into something with a heavier beat and in some ways more musically advanced,” said Roland. “The music we cut was real transition music. It had a little rockabilly, a little soul and so on.” For troublesome customers, he had a knob on the console that said“Control All.” He’d invite the client to adjust it while he ran the tape. They’d play with it until they were satisfied, and had no idea that it wasn’t wired to anything.

Sonic folded in 1974. After a couple of years out of the business, Roland hired on as an engineer at Sounds of Memphis, and then, in 1982, at the Phillips studio. In between, he worked as an instructor in recording technology at a predominantly black vocational school in Memphis. At Phillips, he engineered Charlie Feathers’ Elektra album, Charlie Rich’s last album for Sire Records, and a plethora of other sessions: soul, blues, rock, grunge, indie, retro, even rap. Artists, including Bob Dylan, came to Phillips Recording simply to have Roland engineer their work and pass judgment on it.

I last saw Roland at the studio in August when we worked on some 1970s Jerry Lee Lewis tapes that Knox Phillips had produced. I told him I’d come see him when he was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame on November 5. Roland had been way overweight for years, and his knees troubled him, but he’d spiffed himself up with some hair color and new glasses. In September, he had a heart attack, and went swiftly downhill from there. He went into the hospital on October 3, and on the 17th, Knox Phillips called to say that Betty Janes and the kids had opted to remove life-support after a scan revealed serious brain damage from a stroke. Roland died the following day, a couple of months past his eightieth birthday. His family was with him, and J.M. Van Eaton had dropped by the hospital to check on Roland, only to be present at the moment of his passing.

The funeral was on October 22. A slideshow showed Roland at different stages of his life and career. Among the shots was his Bear Family LP, Guitarville—the only album ever released under Roland Janes‘ own name.



http://www.bear-family.de/blog/BearWordPress_EN/2013/10/24/roland-janes-1933-2013/
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Last edited by Mister Moon on Sun Nov 17, 2013 11:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:47 am

Sad news -- his playing echoed and yet complimented whatever Jerry might have been doing on the piano.

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Tue Nov 05, 2013 9:24 am

Roland Janes playing guitar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvuDuGfZ5ZU


:smt006

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:15 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:Sad news -- his playing echoed and yet complimented whatever Jerry might have been doing on the piano.


Yes, Doc, this is so true.

Jerry's best Sun recordings, those he did with Roland Janes and Jimmy Van Eaton, roughly from 1956 to 1960, often show us a kind of telepathy between the three musicians. Each one of them seemed to know what the others were going to play. It was a truly magical combination, one whose works I never tire of listening to.

Many thanks for your post !

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Sun Nov 10, 2013 4:09 am

Peter Guralnick remembers Roland, too. A really beautiful tribute :

http://www.peterguralnick.com/post/65424429877/i-still-miss-someone-roland-janes-1933-2013

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Mon Nov 11, 2013 4:27 pm

Here's one of the masterpieces Roland played in, Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On" (Sun single 267), recorded February 1957, and issued the next month. This, of course, was a million seller. Probably one of the rawest records ever to hit gold.

It's one of my all-time, probably Top 5, favorite recordings.

SUN 267.jpg


Just listen to the solos, they are sublime. First, Jerry Lee hammers the piano, then he gives way to Roland, who plays one of the greatest, coolest guitar solos in the history of rock and roll. Just as Roland is finishing the solo, there's Jerry Lee again, wailing out ! Jimmy Van Eaton on drums is perfect throughout. No more instruments needed !

You've probably listened to this a hundred times, but hit "play" and enjoy it again, please :

phpBB [video]

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Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:10 am

Here's a beautiful note which was supposedly posted by Jerry Lee on Facebook on the subject of Roland's passing :

GOD REST HIS SOUL, MY GOOD FRIEND. BLESS ALL THE FAMILY AT THIS SAD TIME. JERRY LEE LEWIS.


http://www.jerry-lee-lewis.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=2968&start=15

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Mon Nov 18, 2013 6:29 am

Mister Moon wrote:Peter Guralnick remembers Roland, too. A really beautiful tribute :

http://www.peterguralnick.com/post/65424429877/i-still-miss-someone-roland-janes-1933-2013


Yes, Peter posted a link to this on FB shortly after it happened. I recall I posted a comment expressing sympathy for his loss. Because it was also, obviously, his loss.

He was great: in many ways the sound of what people think of when they think of "rock and roll." RIP.

rjm

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:25 am

rjm wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:Peter Guralnick remembers Roland, too. A really beautiful tribute :

http://www.peterguralnick.com/post/65424429877/i-still-miss-someone-roland-janes-1933-2013


Yes, Peter posted a link to this on FB shortly after it happened. I recall I posted a comment expressing sympathy for his loss. Because it was also, obviously, his loss.

He was great: in many ways the sound of what people think of when they think of "rock and roll." RIP.


Thank you very much for your post, rjm !

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:28 am

Mister Moon wrote:
rjm wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:Peter Guralnick remembers Roland, too. A really beautiful tribute :

http://www.peterguralnick.com/post/65424429877/i-still-miss-someone-roland-janes-1933-2013


Yes, Peter posted a link to this on FB shortly after it happened. I recall I posted a comment expressing sympathy for his loss. Because it was also, obviously, his loss.

He was great: in many ways the sound of what people think of when they think of "rock and roll." RIP.


Thank you very much for your post, rjm !


You're welcome. :smt006

rjm

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Fri Mar 21, 2014 9:46 pm

I just have listened to the following track, which is a real favorite, and I had to post it here.

This is Sun artist Malcolm Yelvington in 1957, as recorded at 706 Union, backed by The Little Green Men. A real highlight of this recording is Roland Janes' superb guitar work, including a 40 second guitar solo.

They clearly were trying to reproduce Jerry Lee's sound. It's not hard to imagine this track sung by him, with this same arrangement.

This wasn't released originally, and appeared for the first time in the 70s.

phpBB [video]


Malcolm Yelvington - "Goodbye Marie"

*****************

And don't forget to check that Malcolm Yelvington topic, which includes a short documentary on him !

http://www.elvis-collectors.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=79386

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Sun Apr 06, 2014 10:34 pm

I found this very cool color photo, showing Jerry Lee Lewis with Roland Janes and drummer Russell Smith, performing live at an unidentified location, definitely late 50s :

Lewis Janes.jpg
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Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Sun Apr 06, 2014 10:38 pm

Mister Moon wrote:I found this very cool color photo, showing Jerry Lee Lewis with Roland Janes and drummer Russell Smith, performing live at an unidentified location, definitely late 50s :

Image


Awesome candid! It's probably from 1958, no other details on it?

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Sun Apr 06, 2014 10:42 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:I found this very cool color photo, showing Jerry Lee Lewis with Roland Janes and drummer Russell Smith, performing live at an unidentified location, definitely late 50s :

Image


Awesome candid! It's probably from 1958, no other details on it?


Sorry, but no more info. It was posted on a page along with some other JLL photos, and the only data was that all them were from the 50s. I agree this could be from 1958, or maybe 1959.

Thanks for the post. Glad you liked it !

Re: Rock'n'Roll Legend Roland Janes Is Gone

Sun Apr 06, 2014 11:00 pm

This clipping from Roland's personal collection has been used in different books / booklets, but I can't help posting it - it's so great !

Riley Little Green Men 1957.JPG
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